With $10 Million Series B Round, Viewdle Turns Its Face Recognition Technology on Consumers
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defense and security applications. The company still has 45 engineers in Kiev, including eight PhDs, Mitura says.
While there’s been endless hype about facial recognition since the terrorist attacks of 2001, the technologies haven’t really started to deliver until recently, Mitura acknowledges. “People have lost faith in it, but it’s getting to the point now that it works even in uncontrolled environments, with different lighting angles,” he says. “Professor Schlesinger’s breakthrough was a matching algorithm that did a very good job of normalizing, and making the core pattern recognition robust enough that it worked both in high-quality and low-quality environments.”
The technology has gained both in precision—its ability to correctly identify a face in a photograph or a frame of video—and consistency, its ability to pick out the same person in a series of images. That could be a boon for people who upload lots of pictures and videos to Facebook and other photo sharing sites. Currently, it’s too much work to identify and tag every person in every photo manually, so most people don’t bother. But if this happened automatically, at the moment a picture was snapped, it could lead to much wider sharing and online conversation. “Automatic tagging solutions fit the new dynamic prevalent on the Web, where you want stuff to get posted as its being taken, and you want the people in it to receive a notification as it’s being posted,” says Mitura.
In 2009, both Apple and Google added face recognition capabilities to their popular photo management apps, iPhoto and Picasa. But Mitura points out that these features only work on the desktop and laptop versions of the applications, whereas Viewdle’s algorithms require less processing power—meaning they can run on the same smartphones, digital cameras, or videocams used to capture the images.
Will Viewdle’s new technologies be worth the wait? We’ll know by early next year, when the company expects to make some actual product announcements. “It’s taken a long time and a lot of people and investment to get to the place we are right now,” Mitura told me. “We’re on a shift from being very internally focused on research to being externally focused on products. If you call in six months, the balance will not be as out of whack. And if you look at the investors, all of them have in mind getting this technology into the palms of consumers.”
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